Family Stories: Best Lesson

What Was the Best Lesson You Learned Growing Up About Knowing Right From Wrong?

My brother and I went to a five-and-ten-cent store. In the toy counter were miniature cars. We gave in to temptation and managed to get one or two into our pockets and walked out. The manager stopped us and led us back into the store. We were frightened and penitent; the manager watched as we replaced the toys in their place on the counter. We then learned about sin and forgiveness. The manager assured us that we could come back into the store if we had learned our lesson. At 84 years of age, I still value that experience.
—J. C., Hightstown, NJ

When I was about five, my mother and I were at the grocery store. I watched this other kid pick up some gum and put it in his pocket. Well, if he could do it, why couldn't I? I “kind of” knew it wasn't right, but he did it, right? So, I carefully picked the gum up and put it in my pocket. No sooner had I withdrawn my hand from my pocket than my mother grabbed me by the back of the shirt. She made me hand over what I had just placed in my pocket. Fear of death in the middle of the store made me reach in rather quickly and take out the gum. She was furious! She marched me right up to the clerk and asked the clerk to call the manager. When the manager arrived, she made me hand over the gum. I had to tell him that I was extremely sorry for what I had done, that I knew it was wrong and that I would never, ever take anything from his store again without paying for it. To this day, I have not forgotten the feeling that doing something that wrong made me feel.


I always remember one incident as proof of goodness that occurs to those who do the right thing. When I was a teen, about 16 or so, my father found a brown paper bag by the curbside with $2,000 and baby clothes. His friends tried to coax him into sharing with them. But my father wanted to wait to see if anyone would return to retrieve the bag. When a crying woman returned to the scene, he gave the money and clothes to her. He refused a reward. Afterward, God bestowed numerous blessings his way for doing the right thing. During his career he received lots of promotions and raises and always seemed to have extra money to share with his family.

—Sharon Moore, Englewood, NJ

I had a special dad who always gave me the time to talk to him about everything and anything. One time I lied to him to protect someone else from getting into trouble. Instead I got into trouble. If I had just been upfront with my dad, he would have understood. No one would have been in trouble. My dad grounded me. My dad knew that I would never lie to him again

—W. M. F., Blackstone, MA

The best lesson I learned growing up was when my brother and I rode the bus to school in the morning. I was two years older than my brother and had several friends that rode the same bus. One day they decided to start teasing my little brother about a ball cap he always wore to school. I suddenly had a decision—agree with my friends and be “cool” or remain loyal to my brother who was younger and smaller. I sided with my brother and have always been happy with that decision. It was the right thing to do. Soon my “friends” lost interest and left him alone.
—M. G., Mitchell, SD

I had a stepsister who was heavy into drugs. I was young, and she had a son much younger than me. My stepdad and mother had to raise him for a couple of years, because of how bad she was. Her companions robbed us, and I remember how bad our whole family felt with her mistakes. I knew by her actions never to touch the stuff and to not steal.
—B.R.H., Marceline, MO

One day my brothers and I were standing in the grocery checkout line with mother. My youngest brother was about four years old. He picked up a pack of gum and put it in his pocket without anyone seeing him. Later, after we got home, my mom noticed that he had the pack of gum. She immediately stopped what she was doing, got us back in the car, and drove back to the grocery store. She took my brother into the store and asked for the manager. Mom made my brother tell the store manager that he had stolen the pack of gum and that he was sorry. He asked the manager's forgiveness for the wrong he had done. He had to pay the store manager for the gum he had taken. The manager didn't want to take the money. He told my mother that the child asking forgiveness was enough. Mother insisted that he take the money. It was necessary for my brother to understand what he had done and pay for what he had taken. We all learned right from wrong that day.
—Sharon, Alexandria, LA

I learned not to judge people by appearance and by their family. I felt I was judged by my family and by how we dressed. I felt that was unfair. I learned that life and people are not always as they seem on the outside. We never know what life is bringing other people until we have walked a bit in their shoes.
—I. L. C., Olivet, MI

I learned to ask myself two questions: Would your parents be proud of what you're doing? Would you want someone to do the same thing to you? If I couldn't answer yes to both of those questions, I was choosing to do the wrong thing.
—Geri Wiltfong, Enumclaw, WA

In elementary school, a classmate wanted to copy answers from an exam. The girl kept insisting that it wasn't cheating, it was helping a friend. I helped her out the first time. Then I told my mom what happened. Mom explained that it wasn't okay to cheat and that if I did it again for someone, I would be just as wrong as the cheater. Mom's words stayed with me forever after that.
—L. B., Brooklyn, NY

My mother is an old-fashioned Hispanic woman. She always taught me right from wrong. The real lesson I learned in junior high school was not to trust your friends too much. I am glad I didn't because the person I thought was my friend had gone to the store and was arrested for shoplifting. They also found marijuana on her. My mom had always told me that your only best friend is your mother.
—M. E. M., Las Vegas, NV

My parents taught me right from wrong. They were good people, who have since passed away. They instilled in our family that you will always be caught at some point if you do something wrong. You would carry guilt inside you knowing you did something wrong. When I was a teenager, I disobeyed my parents. I did something I knew they wouldn't want me to do. I lied to them about it. They later found out and my heart hurt for having lied to them.
—I. R. N., Belleville, NJ

My lesson in telling right from wrong came from a monk in my hometown. One day he took the wild child that I was aside and simply said: “The Lord forgives all sins if you accept his love into your heart.” That said, it took another 15 or so years for me to understand the full measure of those words. Even today I strive to live by them.
—L. P., Rhode Island

This lesson I will never forget. I was in grade school and while at the grocery store something possessed me to take a candy bar from the checkout line. I still remember what kind it was. I never ate it though. My mom realized that I had it while we were driving home and she turned the car around and went back to the store. You know what comes next—I had to return the candy bar to the store manager myself. Lesson learned.
—Katie Callinan, Scotia, NY

The best lesson I learned growing up was to always listen to your parents when they tell you something is wrong. They were 100% correct. It is just too bad that I learned that lesson too late in life
—J. V., Milford, CT

My parents always protected my sis and me from guys. I was always told that if I didn’t listen to the advice that my mother gave me, I would only find suffering. I had fights with my mom because she did not like my boyfriend. She told me that he was no good for me. He had other girls and that he was just playing with me. I was told not to go out alone with the guy. I told my mom that my friends would be with me. I lied and then my boyfriend took me to a deserted park alone and raped me. Since then I listen to what my mother tells me. She knows better, and she is my mother.
—B. M., North Plainfield, NJ

The best lesson I learned when growing up was when a bunch of my friends and I got into trouble. My friends’ parents rushed to bail them out. My parents made me work off the fines and didn't bail me out. I learned at a young age that if you are going to do something wrong you must be willing to make it right on your own and deal with the consequences.
—C. A. T., Kersey, PA

The best lesson that I learned when growing up about right and wrong happened when I was in high school. A friend and I decided to skip class that morning and started walking to McDonald’s. About halfway there my dad pulled up and asked where we were going. I decided against my better judgment to tell him that we had a late morning start. He drove us to McDonald’s and took us back to school. All day long I dreaded that I lied to him. My parents had taught me that to tell a lie was wrong and only hurt the ones you love. When I came home from school, I called my dad at work and told him the truth. I knew that although I was going to get in trouble I had to do the right thing and confess. This taught me to realize that the short gain of a lie is so not worth the long-term regret.

The one that sticks in my head is when my son was four years old he took a candy bar from the store without paying for it. I made him go back in and by himself explain what he had done and pay for it. I believe he has grown up to be a better person.
—Michele Gourley, Barnegat, NJ

A friend of mine stole something from a store and he didn't get caught. But it scared the hell out of me. I was maybe six years old at the time and it has stuck with me for 45 years.

When I was 16, I went out with an older girl from down the street. I told my parents that I would be staying the night with her and that I would be home in a bit to get my belongings for the night. Well, I never ended up going home to get my stuff. We stayed out all night long. When I got home at around 8 a.m., my mom was lying on the couch and hardly looked up at me when I walked in. I asked her what was wrong. She said that she was so disappointed in me and thought that we had a closer relationship than that. It was the biggest blow to me and made me realize that I needed to be honest with myself and my parents. I asked for her to yell at me or punish me. She told me to go upstairs for awhile and sit in my room and think about what I did. I could not bear the pain and agony that caused me. I had no defense against that. If she had yelled at me or something, I could have rebutted her. Instead I was stuck there feeling guilty. It took my parents a long time to trust me again. Now we have a very open, wonderful, and positive relationship.
—Anna Crankshaw, Travis AFB, CA

When I was eight or nine years old, I was on my way to school when I made my daily stop at the local corner store for a snack. I did not have enough money for the candy bar I wanted, so when the clerk was not looking, I took it. I felt the guilt pressing on me all day, and the next day I again stopped into the store. This time, when the clerk was not looking, I left 50 cents on the counter and hurried out of the store. I would never take anything else without paying for it the rest of my life.

When I was eight years old, I was stupid enough to throw a rock at a moving car in front of our house. Thankfully, the car window was closed, or I could have hurt the nice man in the car. The window shattered, and my parents had to pay for the damages. Along with being grounded, I felt awful at having to tell the man who owned the car I was sorry.

When I was eight years old, I was shopping with my mom. I took a candy bar from the store. I put it in my little purse, not knowing my mom saw me. When we got home, I went to my room and started to put the candy bar away in my drawer. My mom came in and caught me. She said, “Was that the candy bar you took from the store?” I was scared, and I could not believe she knew about it. She said whenever you do not live the way of God, you will be found out. She drove me back to the store. I paid the lady for the candy bar and had to clean my room every day for a month. I never took another thing that did not belong to me.
—L. D., Stratford, CN